Thursday, June 23, 2005

Does Philip K. Dick dream of Electric Sheep?

Reality has become twisted in a bizarre mobius loop.

Philip K. Dick, world renowned science fiction author is dead, dead as a doornail, this we know.

Dick died in 1982 at the age of 53 after a life of drug abuse, paranoia and a prolific career that spans 44 novels and 121 short stories. These stories often dealt with mans relation to the universe, and what exactly makes us human in a world increasingly dominated by simulcra and artifice.

He was not a novelist but a man who used the novelists tool box to expound on truth and philosphy in an attempt to explain the mysteries and contradictions of life to himself.

One of the devices that Dick repeatadly used was one whereby Robots or Androids had been developed to such a stage that it was impossible to physically distinguish them from humans, and even the robots were programmed to believe they were human. This device was used to examine what makes us human. The most famous of these "Robot" novels being "Do androids dream of Electric Sheep" which was turned into the film "Blade Runner" by Ridley Scott in 1982, the year of Dicks Death.

In November 2004 David Hanson of Hanson Robotics began bleeding a stream of irony and confusion into the river of reality. He has teamed up with the FedEx institute of technology and the University of Texas' Automation and research institute to manufacture a Robotic Simulcra (pictured above) of Philip K. Dick himself. The Dick Robot itself apparenty incorporates what Hanson refers to as "a convergence of the worlds best expressive robotic hardware, natural language and machine vision that will appear in a wide range of applications such as advertising, entertainment and education."

I am not sure that if Dick were alive today he would approve of his image, and voice being used in advertising and entertainment, as many of his concerns in his novels expressed rage and helplessness at the individual being exploited by a heavily controlled and monitored mechanised technological society.

I leave you with a quote from the man himself.

"So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudorealities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind."

It seems to me to be the ultimate corruption, that the man who raged so fiercely and furiously at the erosion and co-option of our individual identities by labyrinthine machievellian structures like corporations and governments be used in such a way.

Who knows what they will make it tell us?

Peace and Hope



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